Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Tag: construction

Class 28: Period bodice – mounting the layers

The aim today was to mount all the layers altogether, so that they can be sewn together ready for fitting.

As my top fabric was quite thin, Claire recommended that I should use domette on every panel so the bones would not show. For thicker fabrics, domette might only be required on the front stomacher panel.

First I cut out the domette and top fabric layers, then hand basted those to the drill and lawn layer.

Hand basting together all the layers on the side front bodice panel

Hand basting together all the layers on the side front bodice panel

Tips for hand basting:

  • do not knot – use a back stitch and cross at corners
  • mark breast, waist and other lines by basting. This will help you match the pieces up later and make sure everything it level.
  • if there are boning channels make sure you do not stitch though them
  • keep flat. This may be hard to do because the multiple layers can be thick, but if you bend the layers the holes the needle make will be offset from each other.
  • do a line and then cut the thread. This is because you usually take off lines at different times.
Shoulder showing marking lines basted and crossed corners

Shoulder showing marking lines basted and crossed corners

Next week bring:

  • basic sleeve block toile
  • lawn
  • piping
  • hooks & bars  -size 4 or 5
Hook, bar, and eye - size 4

Hook, bar, and eye - size 4

Class 27: Period bodice construction

Today we were going to start construction of the period bodice. We were meant to have finished our petticoats, but I still had quite a bit to do.

In the morning, I had a fitting so that Claire could see how far I had got. I still hadn’t quite finished the ovals, a few missing at the top centre back, but these would be covered by the overskirt. More importantly, I had not got the petticoat on to a waistband yet or sewn the bias binding round the hem.

Fitting the quilted petticoat

Fitting the quilted petticoat. You can see the excess wadding needs to be removed at waistline

Clare said that I should just make a centre back placket opening at the back, which would be simpler and correct for ‘theatrical costume’ to allow the actress to easily get in and out of it, but I ☆.•really•.☆ want to finish the petticoat by hand  - 90+ hours so far hand stitching,  what is another few hours? I also would really like to use ties and have pocket slits. I always have to much bumph on me I need pockets.

Still to do on petticoat:

  • take out excess wadding round waistline
  • sew on to petersham
  • add pocket slits and bias bind
  • finish waistband
  • add hook and bar fastenings at front
  • bias bind the hem

Period bodice construction

In the afternoon we started on the bodice construction. Clare had given us a boned bodice overview at the end of last term, partly to explain what materials we would need to get during the holidays:

  • cotton drill – 1m
  • cotton lawn – 1m
  • domette – 1m
  • top fabric – 1m (more if matching pattern lines)
  • steel boning 8mm – 10mm (no rigiline)

The main aim today were:

  • to understand the construction of the bodicebo
  • adding boning positions
  • adding seam allowances
  • cutting out and marking up lawn layer
  • machine basting lawn to drill


We will be using  flat steels (not rigiline) for the bodice boning, even though the corset will be providing a good foundation to the shape.

The steels tend to placed in the centre of each panel, usually sloping towards the centre front or back, along straight seams, and either side of centre front and centre back. For more support,  such as on the side front panel, 2 bones can be placed next to each other. If boning is required down a seam,  channel tape can be used. If the seam is curved used spiral sprung boning.

The boning on the back only goes as high as the shoulder blade, except on a laced back opening where the bone go all the way to the top on the opening. At the sides, the bones tend to stop at the breastline, but at the front they are full length as the stomacher tends to stop quite low.

Period bodice pattern pieces with bone placement

Period bodice pattern pieces with bone placement and standard seam allowances (before changing them depending on the openings/design)

The bones on the stomacher in 18th century styles tend to fan out being wider at the top than at the bottom, rather than being straight which was characteristic in Tudor stomachers. Even though my stomacher was not very wide, I used 4 bones on each side.   If there is no CF opening, place two bones straight down the center front. If there is an opening, place a bone down each side leaving space for fastenings.

You can add channels down the seam allowance, just in case the bodice is too tight.

Seam Allowances

Generally before for the first fitting it is good to leave at least 25mm seam allowance, but more in some cases:

  • CF opening – add at least 50mm
  • CB opening –  add 100mm if it is to be turned back and eyeleted
  • CB/CF without opening – 50mm unless cut on the fold
  • front side opening/stomacher – add 50mm on each side
  • top/bottom – 25mm, more at neckline if you think it might need adjusting.
  • side back – 25mm, or more if very curved.
  • shoulders – 40mm

Starting the construction

Once the pattern was all drawn out, I started on the construction.

  1. Press lawn
  2. Cut out lawn and drill
  3. mark out with bone placement
  4. machine mount drill on to lawn (drill – good side faces the body)
  5. machine sew  bone channels (all the way down to bottom edge in to the seam allowance)

The drill and lawn should be mounted ready for next week.


  • Bodice: mount drill and lawn layers and sew boning channels
  • Overskirt: gather on to waistband
  • Quilted petticoat: remove bulk wadding at top, pleat on to waistband, add placket, biasbind the bottom, finish quilting, add pockets.

Class 22: Bodice overview, tutorials, and more quilting

Bodice overview

In the first few weeks of this term we fitted a period bodice toile. Today Claire explained the different layers needed for a period bodice, the materials we would need, and an overview of the processes and techniques which we will be using next term.

The bodice will be boned using flat steels which will be encased within the 4 layers of fabric:

  • Drill  – to go against the skin
  • Cotton lawn
  • Domette (light-weight flat domette)
  • Top fabric

We will need 1 meter of each layer which we should buy ready for the start of next term (19April2010).

Domette is a interlining fleece often used in curtain making to add weight and warmth to curtains.  You can get it in cotton or synthetic materials and it can be flat or fluffy. In the bodice, domette is used to stop the boning from showing, so may not be required if the top fabric is bulky.

There will be more bones on the stomacher than the rest of the bodice, but they are there to act as a stiffener to stop the bodice wrinkling rather than to manipulate the body. We will be making channels in the fabric layers to slide in the bones, but tapes on the drill layer could be used to hold the bones in place.

We will draft our own bodice patterns based on our individual designs and sizes.

1780's Polonaise Design

Draft design for my 1780's polonaise with quilted petticoat

My notes from class were incomplete, but the first few steps of construction are:

  1. Cut out the pattern pieces for all layers.
  2. Mark  bone positions on to cotton lawn layer. The markings will not show as they will be covered by the outer layers.
  3. Mount lawn on to drill by tacking.
  4. Machine stitch to make bone channels.
  5. … more to come.


Patsy, Mathilde and I had our group tutorial today with Claire. We are all at quite different stages, are doing quite different costumes, and came to the course with quite different skills – but that makes it good as we can help each other. It also means we can hear about problems and solutions the others encounter, but we may have not in our own costumes – it is a great way to learn.

Because Mathilde is using a much heavier fabric, she will need to use netting sewn in to her skirt and maybe on the bumpads to help get the period shape. She is also using cartridge pleats along the waistband, which I will be using on my skirt.

For the moment, I just have to concentrate on quilting so I can complete my petticoat. I am the only one in my class who is completely hand quilting. Patsy who is very experienced with textiles is completely machine quilting. Lorna and Eva are doing a combination of hand and machine.

Next term I will have to complete the bodice, overskirt and a fishou to go around the neck.

More quilting

I finished the tree design on the centre front of the petticoat. It felt like quite an accomplishment, but I still have a lot to do.  It has made me think that I would like to only use hand stitching on the petticoat, but I may falter and machine stitch the seams that are not seen.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Homework 19: Preparing petticoat for quilting

I haven’t bothered to enter homework much on the blog. It is not that I haven’t been doing any, more that I have just been doing bits and pieces most nights each week. However this weekend I ended up on a mammoth task of preparing my fabric and wadding ready for quilting.

As I have not quilted before, earlier in the week I spent a fair amount of my evenings researching quilting techniques (hand and machine), types of quilt wadding (or batting), and how to tack the quilt layers.

Quilt wadding or batting

Historically a quilted petticoat would have most likely been padded with cotton or possibly wool flocking, but not many woollen ones have survived because of moths (quilt history).

Most of the class have bought polyester wadding, but I’m not keen on this idea as I would rather use something natural. The problem is polyester is so much cheaper than the natural alternatives.

I decided to research various paddings and found these links very helpful:

I was worried that polyester would be difficult to quilt, but I discovered that actually cotton is quite hard to push the needle through, wool is easier, and polyester is not too bad. I also remembered I had a old duvet which was looking rather ratty and taking up space in the cupboard.

Very old polyester double duvet.

A rather stained, old polyester double duvet.

Once I unpicked the seams and took the cover off, the wadding didn’t look so bad. It was thin and worn in places, but overall it was too thick, so I had to separate it in to layers. It was quite difficult to do this evenly.

Separating the layers of the wadding

Laid out on the living room floor so I could separate it in to thinner layers .

After I separated the duvet in to two layers, I put it round my dressform to see how it looked and if the hem circumference was wide enough.  The duvet is 2 meters x 2 meters, but to fit over my under petticoat which has a hem of 2.5 meters plus a frill, the quilted petticoat will have to be over 2.6 meters, so I will have to use more than one drop.

Duvet wadding on bluebell (my dressform)

Duvet wadding on bluebell (my dressform). You can see I will need to extend the drop to get the desired hem circumference.

Tacking the layers of the quilted petticoat

I found Sharon Schamber’s videos very helpful, especially her one on hoopless hand quilting. The video below is Sharon explaining her method of tacking (or basting depending on which side of the pond you are on).

On Saturday morning I went up to B&Q to try and get a couple of bits of wood as Sharon describes in her video. I thought I was going to have to buy a £9 pine shelf and cut it in half, but luckily in the end I managed to get two MDF offcuts for 20 pence. The MDF pieces were slightly larger than needed and quite dense, so heavy, but I couldn’t argue with the price.

After sewing together two drops of the muslin base fabric together, pressing both the muslin and the blue cotton top fabric, putting both fabrics on the MDF boards, and placing the wadding between them, it was on with the tacking. Easy really (just time consuming).

Starting with the herringbone tacking

Starting with the herringbone tacking

This is how it looked at the end of the extended version of Gladiator.

Herringbone quilt tacking - 3 and a bit hours in.

Herringbone quilt tacking - 3 and a bit hours in.

Taking on the underside of the quilt

Taking on the underside of the quilt

As the blue cotton top fabric I am using is 2.6 meters wide, I realised rather than making another panel, I could just extend the wadding in between the muslin and cotton layers.

Only a bit more tacking to go. YOu can see the MDF boards I am using.

Only a bit more tacking to go. You can see the MDF boards, thimbles and basting thread I used.

And after all 5 episodes of Kirstie’s Homemade Home, it was done…

All the basting done - 3 meters x 1.2 meters in just 9 hours

All the basting done - 3 meters x 1.2 meters in just 9 hours

Basted fabric draped on Bluebell

The basted petticoat fabric draped on Bluebell

Now I just need to sort out the quilting design.

Class 9: corset boning, cutting out and mounting top fabric, tutorial, designs.

A lot of use were still applying rigiline to our base layers, but we went over mounting top fabric and sewing it to the base layer.

I still wasn’t much closer on the design and didn’t have the top fabric for the corset, but there was still some boning to do, so I still had a little time.


Elaine sat in on the tutorial while Claire and I discussed how things were going, what my plans were, and what I wanted to get out of the course. I said I wanted to apply to do BA (Hons) Theatre: Costume Interpretation at Wimbledon College of Arts . Claire told me about 2 of her other students who are studying there, and advised me about the UCAS process and that I should sign up to attend an open day asap.


I am not so confident in this bit. I find it hard to get my ideas illustrated on paper, there are so many things I could do, but also I am finding it really hard to find fabrics I would like to use.

I am really smitten by stripes, but wide ones and the only ones I can find look like deck chairs as they are printed cotton.

I need to spend more time on this.

Class 8: Corset – cutting out and marking the drill. Start to apply boning.

The aim for today were to start construction on the stays. Claire taught us in the morning explaining the construction methods for the corset up to sewing the base and top layers together.

Cutting out and mounting the base and the top layers should be done at the same time, but I still had not yet  finalised my design or settled on what top fabric to use.

The order of work was laid out, and by the end of the class most of us were well in to applying the rigilne boning which is really quite time consuming.


  • Continue with boning
  • Start pleating petticoat
  • Continue with logbook

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